Monthly Archives: July 2016

kartuli tsota vitsi

OK, before I get started, I’m going put the most important item right out there. There are Snickers with hazelnuts here. Yes, a true Mars bar Snickers, but with hazelnuts instead of peanuts. With that out of the way…

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I know a little Georgian 

ქართული ცოთა ვიცი – kartuli tsota vitsi

 

The alphabet

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Just to be clear, it’s not Arabic or Cyrillic, it’s Georgian. It’s one of 14 alphabets in use in the world today. Same vowels as English and quite a few additional consonants for a total of 33. Some have no English equivalent. One very useful thing, each letter has only one sound. Not like English with many sounds for each vowel and consonants with multiple sounds too – George and Gertrude for instance. Not that there aren’t subtle differences. There are 3 letters that represent the letter K; კ (aspirated), ყ & ქ. And there’s 2 consonant cluster letters that have the sound of TS; ც&წ. Useful. Like old/middle English letter thorn “þ” for the TH sound.  Other letters have specific, mostly guttural sounds. One other thing, sometimes useful sometimes confusing, no capital letters for proper names, or for anything else, for that matter.

The pronunciation

It’s hard. Lots of consonants strung together and as I mentioned, guttural sounds. I’ve had several people correct me on what sounds to me just exactly like what I said. Remember above on the 3 letters for K? The ყ is the deepest, it originates around the glottis. The letter კ is less deep, back of the throat kind of K. And then ქ often represented in latin letters at q; is made in the mouth. Sigh.

The tenses and post-positions

There are 7 cases in Georgian. 7. English has 2. The most puzzling and opaque one is the Ergative case. Lucky for those not learning Georgian or Nez Perce, it’s found in only a few languages in the world. To change the tense in Georgian, you change the post-position on the nouns and adjectives. And Georgian has LOTS of post-positions, there are no pre-positions in Georgian, or almost none. To say you are at, by, near, on, in or from (to name a few) you add a post-position to the noun.

To be, to have

There’s the usual stress on these 2 verbs, so interesting that these seem universally important in human communication. In Georgian, there are 2 verbs for “To have,” one used for inanimate objects and one used for animate. You have time, pens, computers or i-phones. You have friends, family, pets or cars. Cars are the an exception in common usage. While not grammatically correct, it’s often on used in conversation as animate. 

The word length

Words seem impossibly long, at least at first. Mnemonics work to help remember words, but you need several!  This makes learning that much more difficult; more syllables to string together to get it right. The word for teacher for instance, 2 syllables in English, mastsavlebeli – 6 in Georgian. It reminds me of Tolkien and Entish, “hill” being a hasty word for something that’s been there since the dawn of time. “Hill” in Georgian? Bortsvi – maybe not quite Entish.

entish

What’s easy

There are a bunch of things good about the language. You spell it the way it sounds (as soon as you can determine which K used). And, there are no silent letters (no pesky e at the end of the word that isn’t pronounced).

Unlike English, it’s logical. The words might be long, but they are logical. At least at this point in my learning. Further study hints at extreme complexity for verb forms…That’s yet to come. In my current understanding, however, the phrase “for the teachers” is a word mastsavlebeblistvis. It’s teacher (mastsavlebeli) in the plural form (adding -ebi to the end, and in this case dropping the final vowels, mastsavleblebi); then possessive (adding -s, just like English, but no apostrophe) then the post-position -tvis meaning “for.” Logical perhaps, but then you have in Georgian მასწავლებლებისთვის. თავი მტკივა, and I rest my case.